Those forgotten in this election
In case you hadn't noticed yet, there is an national election going on in Australia. Are you suffering from election fatigue yet? Or turned-off by the blatant attempts of both the Government (Liberals) and the Opposition (Labor) to buy your vote with financial "incentives"? Or are you still "making up your mind" about which party's promises of tax-breaks, health funding, private school subsidies, rebates and more is going to suit your personal interests? There are lots of blogs and websites out there following the election closely. I'm not going to join them. I do, however, what to urge people to please spare a thought for one of the groups that has received very little attention this elections: refugees.
Compared to the last general elections in 2001, when the Liberal government's racist scare campaign of a tide of refugee boat people poised to "invade" Australia's shores in rickety boats (and the associated "security" threats they posed) tapped a xenophobic undercurrent in Australia that returned the Libs to power, this year's election has been shatteringly silent on Australia's treatment of assylum seekers and refugees. At least amongst the main political parties that is.
There are still those who are trying to keep the issue of Australia's inhumane treatment of refugees alive in our minds as the nation poises to cast its votes.
This includes a report on the Howard government's terrible treatment of the assylum seekers it deports, including the dangers they've faced when deported to the countries they fled in the first place! According to Phil Glendenning, director of the organisation who prepared the report:
"It's fairly clear from this particular study that Australia has been putting people into situations where their lives are at risk once they've been removed from this country."
There is also Clara Law's (director) and Eddie Fong's documentary film, Letters to Ali – the story of an Australian woman and her family who began writing letters to a boy locked up in mandatory immigration detention in the desert, and the bond they developed with him. Importantly, the story allows us an insight into how Australia's policy of locking up assylum seekers who come to the country without the "correct papers". Check out a review, find out why Law and Fong made their film, or catch the film yourself!
It's like shepherding smoke
I have an old newspaper cutting that haunts me. It’s an article by American writer Walter Mosley, pinned to the corkboard on the wall next to my computer. He says:
“If you want to be a writer, you have to write every day. The consistency, the monotony, the certainty, all vagaries and passions are covered by this daily reoccurrence.”
Bugger. I have enough trouble scraping together the time, energy or determination to sit down and write each week, without the added guilt that I’m not doing it each and every day!! Do I really want the additional burden of feeling I’m more of a failure because I don’t write every day, as so many writers, writing teachers and writing books insist? No thanks.
I think it’s fine for writers who like to get up at 5 am and write before they go to work, but I like my sleep, and its enough of a battle to haul myself out of bed and get coffee in my veins, breakfast down my son’s throat and water down my back each morning.
After a long day trying to stop myself from quitting my job, picking-up enough pieces of my self-dignity, or trying to leave my simmering anger at the front door and not bring it into my home to infect my family (not successfully often enough), the last thing I’m thinking of is writing for my self. I find it difficult to summon the enthusiasm and creativity to face the computer or a piece of paper to give my thoughts, ideas and emotions shapes through words.
I prefer the contemplative act of peeling ginger and cutting up vegetables, as I prepare dinner for the family, to worrying about whether my ideas are worth anything or what words to use. And you can’t eat words.
But the ideas churn away. Sometimes in my forethoughts, other times at the back of my mind, they settle into the friendly rhythm of washing, peeling and cutting vegetables. Cooking is strangely contemplative, like when Buddhist monks click through their rosary beads as they meditate on the wheel of life, or when the older women of the Catholic church bend over their rosaries as their words meld into a droning contemplation of their sorrows and hopes.
However much I resent them, Mosley’s words haunt me because they ring true. He warns writers that the very nature of writing is like shepherding smoke: you get your initial ideas down in words, but when you return to them later they have lost their resonance and life, their taste and sense; you wonder why you were so excited about them when you first wrote them. Mosley insists that writers must return over and over again to bring together those “flimsy vapours” and to “brush them, reshape them, breathe into them and gather more.”
This resonates with me because the dozen or more ideas for this blog have dissipated, and now remain elusive, because I hadn’t written them down straight away, or tended them like the fragile ideas and memories they are. Time passes and each day is another I don’t get my ideas on these pages. If I don’t do this to share with others, then I need to just for me. If only to learn Mosley’s lesson of attending to my ideas each day, because “reality will begin to scatter your notions; given two days, it will drive them off.”
But not ever day. There’s dinner to cook, laundry to fold, a child to read to, scraped knees to tend to, arguments to resolve, there was something on TV to catch …
Getting it out there
I promised myself that I would publish my own, first blog in time for Fathers Day (here in Australia). It is my gift to myself: a place for me to express myself, publish some of my own work, that I care about: social and political issues (here in Australia and globally), fathers and fathering, writing, reading and the English language, and whatever else strikes my fancy about what's going on in this crazy world.
Here goes nothing...
This is about trying to open up some lines of communication with people about things that I care about, making sense of our world and thinking about how to make a difference.
I hope as I get more confident, and get into the practice of publishing my thoughts and writing online regularly, that I will be able to develop some of my ideas and share this development with those who bother to read my blog and share their ideas with me.
And eventually, I want to get feedback from other people who also care about some of these things - even if you don't quite agree with me. But, I'm just starting, and I would like to get on my feet first in the world of blogging and the thrill of instant self-publishing, before I start to deal with your comments and the debate that will hopefully emerge.
till then, I hope you enjoy some of my words, and the ideas they try to convey.